Unintentional harm

There was a bruise on her thigh
the size of my eager young thumb,
the shape and color of a cat’s serving of
Neapolitan ice cream.
It was not my intention to cause her such a harm,
but it was the mark of my drowning eagerness for her,
a thoughtless expression of my wretched rawness.

I did kiss her quick,
a slight sweep upon her hip,
my lips a light touch upon her caramel skin.
She did not flinch or brush me away,
and in her eyes I saw a reflection of myself:
ragged, thin, braced against a cracked nighttime window
framing my narrow frame into a surprising self-portrait.

And I, unexpected, delivered her no preach of the affection
she had overwhelmed in me.
She poured over my every pore,
and my thirst for her was abated, though my heart was dispirited
that I caused her even this unintentional harm.

Country music

When in our purest form
we sang the songs of rain to a hard blessed sky,
and what poured down was our predestined selves
compelling us to praise, to drown, or swim, or else.

Oh, there were hours of song and of prophesied drink,
and the vessels of my heart grew weary of such things.

What dog barks at a well-off man, he asked.
I did not live
among the poorest of the poor to give ye comfort.
I brought ye here to earn a wage
from a rich man who would despise ye.

For He gave us Classic Rockabilly on a clobbered portable radio
when we had no chance but to climb the razor fences
and drag our punctured bellies across the stretched quilts of our mothers,
stitched together with the stripped threads of all they owned.

Yea, the fowl will stand beside the sated dogs, between the children
and the irreproachable young men who wore the mark of
Yeezus on their T-shirts,
their blood still dripping from their well-accomplished hands.
They will watch us with care and they will covet each of the moments
we stand without handcuffs.

Oh, there were hours of song, hours of watered down prayers,
and the vessels of my heart grew weary,
my heart grew weary.

***

My father sat with me to watch Hee-Haw on Saturday nights,
I think he thought I would want to learn the ways of the fiddle
or at least appreciate Roy Clark’s excellent banjo playing.
Instead I learned the violent prose of Labatt 50 ale and Player’s tobacco
in the same room.

He taught me to be hungry with my hands.

Supper was served at 7 p.m. sharp
on fold-up tin TV trays with milk glass rust stains,
and the main course was a bowl of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli
and buttered sliced bread,
and dessert was a tin of fruit cocktail
(with only one cherry, maybe) served in a Dixie cup.
We sat in front of the television screen,
our sock feet folded in front of us,
and a dish towel to cover our shirts,
and we listened to Buck and Roy
and I wondered why
the women who walked by the front door on their way to Bingo or Bridge
or to movies at the downtown theater,
all wore pink or blue nylon scarves
over their hair,
and why they all looked like Jackie Onassis
on their way to an important soiree,
and wore the same perfume my mother preferred
before she left

and then Minnie Pearl would say something outrageous and I forgot the loneliness
until another lady walked past the doorway and I wondered if
she could see the holes in my socks
or notice that my father was reaching for another beer.

Soft brick window wells

do they still hold sleepovers
behind the textile plant,
on those burned-out chesterfields and
the la-z-boys with the brown foam
spilling out of the arms,

and do the bricks still smell like homemade
Portuguese wine
and wet takeout cartons

are the psalms still written on the plywood windows,
random angry verbs and treatises on
Vietnamese honey bees, and
big-G Gods and little-g goddamn ex-wives,
it’s all there, Mister Tinn, a written history
of living drunk on lower Caraway Street

but do you know what it is,
what it really is,
it’s all hidden in the uncomplicated folds of
the fabric of her skirt
like laurel leaves
under my fingers
that certain shade of green
and that certain breath she held
when she saw me approach her
and then

leave
and I’m

flicking cigarette butts into
coffee cans and soft brick window wells
clotted with three years worth of dead leaves
and I’m hoping
maybe something will ignite

and hey, there’s the new kid Carlos explaining again
the harmony of Samdhana yoga
to those with no fucking flexibility, he says
there was too much oneness between the sangria and his breath
when he tried his Yin posture on his teacher and her husband
swore he would beat the living shit out of him
if he tried that kind of

harmony
again

so do you think maybe he’s old enough
to end up dying here
with the rest of us